THE publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation on ending conversion practices was a milestone moment for equality in Scotland. It was long-awaited and is the start of a vital process that will remove some of the pain and abuse from the lives of vulnerable people across our country.

It is a scary time for our LGBTQIA+ communities, but, with the launch this week, many have felt a sense of hope. Campaigners welcomed the announcement, while survivors shared their stories and their desire for the day – hopefully in the not-too-distant future – when nobody else would have to go through what they have.

Conversion practices are acts that aim to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. They are sometimes described as conversion therapy, but there is nothing therapeutic about them. They are abusive and they are a form of violence.

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They can take lots of different forms but all share an intention of stopping people from being who they really are. Some approaches are physical and some are psychological, yet all of them are harmful, and none of them work. They are based on the idea that LGBTQIA+ people are sick or broken and that they need to be fixed.

In a video that was shared by the BBC, one survivor, Justin, said: “When I look back on that period of my life, the kind of overwhelming emotion that I can remember is loneliness.” The processes he described included being at the front of a church while a congregation laid their hands on him, spoke in tongues and even tried to exorcise and “cast demons” out of him.

My Scottish Green colleague Councillor Blair Anderson has talked about how his experiences almost cost his life. He has described the constant internal battle he felt between who he was and who he was pretending to be, which he said brought a profound sense of shame and self-loathing.

The trauma of processes like these can do real long-term damage. And yet it continues. So much of it takes place in secret, and some people experiencing so-called conversion therapy don’t even know that it’s happening to them at the time, so it’s impossible to get a full picture of the scale of the issue.

The UK Government’s most recent National LGBT Survey found that 5% of respondents had been offered conversion practices and a further 2% had undergone it. With more than 100,000 people taking part in the survey, this means that – at a bare minimum – there are thousands of people across the UK who have experienced it.

It is easy to think about the progress we have made for equality – and some of it has been really important, with equal marriage and protections that would have been unthinkable even a couple of generations ago. Yet, as Westminster’s veto of gender recognition reform showed, these rights can be rolled back or reversed.

Over recent years there has been a particularly odious campaign of smears and disinformation against LGBTQIA+ people – and it’s getting worse. With an escalation in hostility and hate crimes, our trans siblings in particular have endured a brutal moral panic and a political pile-on that we haven’t seen in this country since the reprehensible and disgraceful campaign to keep Section 28.

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That is why a lot of us were so shocked to see Brian Souter back on the political scene. He didn’t just agree with the homophobic campaign, he bankrolled it and was at the forefront of protecting a law that told a whole generation of young people that they were not equal and not worthy of recognition or acknowledgement.

The ghosts and the legacy of those prejudices are all around us. The values that Souter and Section 28 represent have no place in a modern or inclusive Scotland, yet it is those same values that will be at the heart of the campaign to keep conversion practices.

There have always been LGBTQIA+ people, and there have also always been reactionary, prejudiced and bigoted forces spreading the worst smears and myths about them and acting to curb their rights. Far too many have been stopped from living the lives they deserved and as the people that they really were.

That’s why, for me and for equality campaigners across Scotland and beyond, this ban is so essential. The UK Government appears to have reneged on its commitment to deliver a ban of any kind, let alone the watertight one that is so necessary. We can’t do the same.

This bill was a core part of the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government, and it is one we are determined to deliver.

Every MSP will face a simple choice. Do we listen to survivors and stand with them, or do we allow these awful acts to continue?

We may not be able to undo the trauma of the past, but we can send a clear message and end some of the pain that is being felt in communities across our country.

Everyone is worthy of respect, safety, dignity and love, and we must ensure that the country we are building is one where nobody has to suffer the abuse that Justin, Blair and so many others have.

Everybody should be able to live safely and freely as the people they really are. That cannot happen as long as conversion practices are still taking place.

If you have been impacted by conversion practices, help is available at